On Roller Coasters

by F.

I’ve never much been into roller coasters, even as a kid, though I could understand the appeal. They were just too scary for my anxiety-ridden little brain to deal with. I think I’ve been on one or two—if you consider Space Mountain at Disneyland to be a roller coaster. Purists will probably say it’s a ride rather than a roller coaster. That may be. I don’t know.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I went on a real roller coaster—a short one, with a ride time of maybe a minute. It had a couple of pretty good loops, though. Enough to be scary. And it was a good experience, because, in addition to my wife enjoying it, I learned something about myself. I think

We bought our tickets and the attendant strapped us in to the car. We took off, climbing and climbing and climbing. The the track went left, up some more… more… more… and then—

Zoom!

We plunged (what felt like) straight down. I felt myself tense up and found my body wanting, unconsciously, to climb out of the car—which I would have done had I not been strapped in. It was scary.

Then the track flattened. Relief. Then we twisted left and dropped again, and I thought, “There has to be a way to make this less scary.” So I tried to look ahead at where we were going and feel like I was controlling the car. Sort of like skiing. I was riding it. It was going where I wanted it to. I tried to merge with it.

It worked. The ride went from being terrifying to merely exciting. Fun? I don’t know if I’d say that. I felt a bit addled when we finally slowed down and came back to the start. But I found a way to adapt to it, and that was fun. Maybe that’s the appeal of roller coaster. It’s an ordeal, and if you can adapt to it, you feel you’ve conquered something. And I think you probably have. There are probably much less useful forms of entertainment.

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